Drop Pounds, Not Dollars with Your Gym Memberships

by Guest Contributor · 8 comments

Everyone seems to have a gym membership these days. Whether you stick with the same place year after year or hop around, a gym membership can be expensive, especially if you opt for a full service institution.

When you are single, you might be able to justify spending $50 or even $100 per month on your membership, but once those kids start coming along, you find yourself rethinking that sum of money. There are many ways you can cut back and still find a good gym for your workouts, and here are a few suggestions.

Levels of Membership

Before you sign on that dotted line, think seriously about whether or not you need that level of service. There are many factors here. First, will you use the gym enough to justify the expense?

For example, a YMCA membership for a single individual in my neighborhood is $46, whereas the city recreation centers are only $38.50 per month. If you drop the pool privileges, you drop to $30 per month. One local gym costs $9 per month if you only use the weights and cardio equipment.

Even if you do pick a full service gym, find out if they offer different packages. If the gym you choose has a pool, you will pay for it even if you don’t use it. Other gyms have racquet sports that require an additional fee too. It goes without saying that if you don’t play, don’t pay. Some gyms charge for specific classes separately, while others charge a single fee for access to all classes. Only pay for what you need.

When NOT to Buy

Never buy a membership the first time you walk into a gym. You may be tempted by all the shiny equipment and good intentions, but you don’t have an accurate perception of the gym the second you walk in. Ask for a free pass and try it out for a couple of weeks. Remember to visit at the times you would usually plan to attend to see how busy the facility gets.

Check the crowds on the weekends and during the evening hours. This will give you a better idea of how the place operates. You don’t want to have to fight for a treadmill to use or wrestle over the weights.

Don’t fall for New Year resolutions and purchase a membership in the first couple of months of the year. The first few weeks of the year are when gyms are packed with people determined to live right. By March, few people are left and the gyms are much more interested in bargaining with you to boost their membership numbers.

For the same reason, avoid the early summer since people are trying to get back into shape before the season starts. Gyms have little incentive to negotiate when the crowds are at the doors.

One More Tip

If you have any skills in teaching and exercise, you can sometimes translate them into free memberships. For example, getting a certificate as a spinning teacher or personal trainer makes you a potential employee. Employees don’t pay to work out at the gym and they can often include a spouse or partner in their privilege.

Are Gym Memberships for Me?

Though gym memberships are expensive, they are not always a bad investment. The added benefits of improved fitness and a lower rate of health risks translate into even bigger savings down the road. But if you choose to pay for it, make sure you enjoy it too!

Want more money saving tips? Check out the How to Save Money on Everything ebook, free when you sign up for the frugal newsletter.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Random Thoughts of a Jersey Mom March 27, 2010 at 6:49 am

Yes, it only makes sense if you actually use the gym. Having a gym membership will be a waste of money in my case…

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basicmoneytips.com March 27, 2010 at 7:31 am

I goto a local gym that is $10 per month. It only really has weights and cardio equipment but that is fine for me. It is also conveniently located so I can go at lunch, which helps.

My wife pays $88 per month to go to an athletic club. It has pools, basketball, various classes – everything you can think of. It is a much higher cost but she does several classes a week, such as yoga, so she is getting good use out of it.

I think exercise should be important in everyones life. You only have one body. Whether your gym is $10 per month or $88, if it meets your needs so you go on a consistant basis, it is worth the money.

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bhleigh March 28, 2010 at 12:21 pm

another option instead of the monthly fee is pre-paying. 24Hour Fitness has different levels of clubs and I pre-paid for the second highest level. The perks were that I could use any club in the country except for two spa level clubs (irvine, Ca and denver, co), I had no dues for three years, i got 10 personal trainer sessions ($500 value), and (this is the best part.) every year following i only paid $29 PER YEAR FOR LIFE.. The downside was that I forked over $1000 up front for this, which equated to $27/month for the three years, which is still cheaper than most memberships. I believe 24Hour now has the same deal but its $99/year after the initial three years.

Its another option, but only for those who go to the gym at least twice a week, because any less and you can find a better deal (see above comments).

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Smarter Spend March 28, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Wow…. this post hits the spot. I tweeted about this a few days ago when I was trying to sign up for a gym… I went into YMCA and they offered me $50 a month with $75 down, while the 24 hour fitness next door did that for no down and $27 a month…. which brings to ask… why is a non profit charging more???.

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Cd Phi March 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I don’t think a gym membership is absolutely necessary..at least not for me. The things that I do at the gym (cardio and light weights) I could probably do at the park or even in my own home. I started noticing in the last couple months that I only made it out to the gym once a week so my $20 membership fee really was $5 each time I visited so I figured it wasn’t worth it anymore and canceled.

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Kate March 30, 2010 at 11:45 am

This post caught my eye as I am always thinking about ways to reduce the cost of my gym membership. It doesn’t bother me when I am going regularly, using the pool facilities and taking classes, but as soon as that stops… I think I might check into some other gyms in the area to see if I can reduce my monthly costs.

Thanks for the ideas.

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Buy Groceries Online April 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm

The value of a membership is based on how much you use it. Personally I think that my gym membership is one of my best investments, because I workout faithfully which helps reduce my current and future health expenses.

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Anonymous December 30, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Pertaining to the YMCA, ask about Income Based Rating Scale. Many Y’s will discount the monthly fee depending on income levels. You will need to prove your income level.

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